Saturday, December 26 – Sunday, December 27

I worked a four-hour afternoon shift at the Major Home Improvement Retailer on Saturday, and appropriately for the day after Christmas I spent most of the shift expunging the last traces of Christmas from the outside garden area.  As the last of the unsold trees, of which there weren’t many, had been hauled off to the trash compactor by the time I started, I worked with two other people in disassembling the remaining tree corrals and cutting stations, discarding the old lumber, and finally sweeping up the vast amount of evergreen needles. By the time everyone was done there was literally no trace remaining of the big tree lot operation.

Sunday was a complete day off, the first of four such days in a row. Any concerns about idleness are misplaced given that the week starting January 4 will be a 52-hour workweek between both jobs. Joy of joys! With all that time on my hands I did quite a bit of Kindle reading (Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin), went to the gym for some rather desultory machine work, and played far too many games of Doodle Jump.. We went to an Indian restaurant in the evening and I got a Masala Dosa, among my favorites.

Published in: on December 30, 2015 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, December 23 – Friday, December 25

Ho ho ho

Wednesday was a day off for me, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy day.  I had to do a fair amount of last-minute stuff for Christmas, which normally would have been fine except for the fact that traffic was absolute miserable. Trips that normally would have taken 20 minutes were taking an hour. I don’t know, the last few days before Christmas usually are a busy time on the roads, but this year seemed much worse. It could have been the freakishly warm weather, or maybe just my perception. One thing that’s clear is that my tolerance for heavy traffic is sinking like a stone. And it never was particularly high to begin with. On a better note, I went to the gym in the evening and had a decent session, cable rows and other back work.

Thursday, Christmas Eve, wasn’t completely  a day off for me. I had a four-hour shift at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, 11 to 3, and it was much busier than I ever would have expected. There was quite a last-minute rush of customers, and there also was a huge freight shipment to be packed out. I spent almost the entire shift rushing around like crazy. This caused it to zip by in no time flat, in fact time was so accelerated I was sorry it hadn’t been an 8-hour shift. As for the rest of Christmas Eve, we had a nice fish dinner (though not the traditional seven fishes) after some delays.

There’s not much to say about Christmas Day, other than the typical stuff: exchanging gifts, having a big dinner, and just enjoying a day off. Merry Christmas.

Published in: on December 30, 2015 at 1:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 21 – Tuesday, December 22

The never-ending shift

Monday marked the start of the second of three weeks off from my main job, and in keeping with that theme it was pretty much of a day off from everything. Other than a few errands I did very little of consequence for most of the day. In the early evening I went to the gym for some back work, mainly cable rows with some supplementary work on machines. Not a top-performing session but a decent one nevertheless.

Tuesday was a workday at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, a somewhat unusual 2pm to 10pm shift. It also happened to be an utterly endless shift. The MHIR is not the sort of retailer that gets much last-minute Christmas shopping, yet despite it being quiet there were four people on duty in garden. For at least the first five hours of the shift I had little to do except wander the aisles and straighten up things on the shelves. Thrilling! Time went so slowly it seemed to be running backwards. I was insanely grateful when some freight was ready for packout around 7 and I actually had something to do.

Published in: on December 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, December 19 – Sunday, December 20

Saturday was a relatively pointless day at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Well, it was non-pointless in the sense that I got paid, but I didn’t accomplish much of anything. Except for trees and Christmas-related items such as lights, the MHIR is not the sort of retailer that gets much of a pre-Christmas rush. In fact, the busiest season is the spring, quite unlike most other retailers.

What all this meant is that there weren’t many customers on Saturday, as it was too close to Christmas for many people to be shopping for trees and decorations (and in any event there was very little stock remaining). Only two or three employees could have taken care of the garden department just fine. Trouble is, for most of my 8-hour shift there were anywhere from five to seven people on duty. Without many customers, and with no freight to pack out, I spent much of my shift just wandering the aisles trying to look busy. I wouldn’t have minded too much, but that makes for  a very slow-moving day.

Another similarly bored employee and I spent some time moving shelving in the outside garden area (an activity known as “setting steel”) even though a traveling construction crew is responsible for that task. It’s tough and noisy work, involving moving heavy shelf beams into place and banging them with rubber mallets until they fit tightly, but noisy as it was it at least made the time pass at something more than a glacial pace.

Sunday was a much easier day as I worked only a 4-hour shift.  That’s fairly unusual for me.  The store was a bit busier than it had been on Saturday, and garden wasn’t nearly as overstaffed, but that didn’t matter too much as I spent most of my shift consolidating the remaining Christmas trees into one corral and then disassembling three now-empty corrals. It was pretty decent work, and unlike the day before my shift went by in no time flat.

Published in: on December 24, 2015 at 3:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, December 17 – Friday, December 18

The existential joys of nothingness

At last. These two days were the first days that really felt like days off. Although my break from my main job started on Monday, between the sinking-in period, work at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, and Christmas shopping, it was only on Thursday that I had a psychic “hey, this is a day off” revelation. This carried over to Friday as well. While I kept myself reasonably occupied with errands and other stuff, I was largely freed from any schedules, any “must-do” things.  And it was nice!

On Friday evening I went to the gym. Now, I could have gone any time during the day, but somehow it’s just more natural to go in the evening because that’s what I’m accustomed to. One thing I’ve never been able to manage is to exercise in the morning, even though many people are really into that. Not me. In any event, I did bench presses, and they were fairly decent: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 6 x 185, 4 x 205, 2 x 4 x 225, 8 x 185. I also did some Hammer Strength MTS shoulder presses, 4 x 8 x 90/90.

Published in: on December 22, 2015 at 2:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 14 – Wednesday, December 16

Such enjoyable traffic!

Monday was the first day of my three-week (unpaid) vacation from my main job. I really got into the “time off” mode by doing pretty much nothing for most of the day. Understand, I don’t particularly like being idle, but after having been working so many hours over the past several months I really wanted to unwind. Even if just for a day.

Tuesday was busier, as I worked at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. My 8:30 to 4 shift marked one of the very few times that I’ve worked during the day on a weekday. Normally I’m not available during those hours because of my main job. It was quite a different atmosphere than in the evenings or on weekends. Most of the customers were contractors rather than homeowners, the daytime merchandising crew was setting up displays, and I saw some workers whom I rarely see.

For much of my shift I worked on consolidating the tree lot. This involved moving the few remaining trees into a handful of corrals, about one-fifth of the original number of corrals, and disassembling the now-empty ones.  They are made of upended pallets held together by long boards laid on top, so disassembling them involved removing the screws holding the boards to the pallets. It was somewhat tedious work though not particularly difficult. And even though Christmas isn’t far off, there was still a slow but steady trickle of tree buyers.  A few of them complained that there wasn’t much of a selection. Well, duh.

Wednesday was a much busier day as we went to the Union Square holiday market in Manhattan for Christmas shopping. It has been my go-to place for years, as I like buying from local artisans. Getting there was easy, a remarkably traffic-free drive to my secret parking spot in Queens and then the R train right to Union Square, and the shopping went very well.  Choosing from among all the interesting offerings is the hard part!

Well, actually, the really hard part was getting back. We got to the Long Island Expressway at Woodhaven Boulevard by about 3:30, and I naively figured that was early enough to beat rush hour. Wrong! Almost the entire trip back was an excruciating crawl, rarely over 25mph and usually much less. Every time it looked as if the traffic was easing it would jam up again. Not counting a food stop, the trip back took about two and a half hours, as compared to an hour for the trip in. Fortunately, I made lemonade out of lemons, so to speak, and had a decent gym session. Still using machines, but upping the intensity a degree.


Published in: on December 18, 2015 at 4:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, December 10 – Sunday, December 13

And thus commences the break

Thursday was my last day at my main job before the 3-week holiday break.   It was, to put it mildly, a very easy day.  There were a few tasks that had to be accomplished, but not many, and they didn’t take long. I spoke with the district manager about my schedule once work resumes on January 3, and it looks as if my four work sites and the timing of my rotation among them isn’t likely to change.  Fine by me.  They’re all decent sites, and I don’t mind the slightly longer driving required. An acceptable tradeoff.  If there are going to be any changed sites I should know the week before I return.

After work on Thursday I made a quick trip into Manhattan, taking the LIRR from Sayville.  As is usual for off-peak trips we had to change in Babylon, which turned out to be slightly frustrating because even though the train from Babylon to Penn was an express making only a few stops, it seemed very, very slow.  Which isn’t to say it was delayed, in fact it arrived right on time, but the fact that it could have gone so much faster was just plain annoying. Fortunately, our return train was one of the finest of all, the 5:09 to Speonk. It’s a dual mode, meaning that it uses diesel coaches with their nice wide seats – quite a contrast to the M-7 electric coaches and their torture seats suitable only for midget anorectic quadruple amputees – and there was no need to change at Jamaica or Babylon. It went via the Central Branch and seemed orders of magnitude faster than the earlier train.

Friday, oddly enough, I had to go back into Manhattan, basically a continuation of what we had been doing the previous day. No trains this time, for my solo trip, instead I drove to my secret free parking spot in Queens and took the R train into Manhattan. Even though my destination was on the east side, just a stop or two into Manhattan on the R, I took advantage of the unusually warm weather and stayed on the R to 23rd Street. I then walked through most of Midtown to my destination. It was definitely crowded, with Christmas shopping in full force. Speaking of crowded, when I drove back I got caught up in the early stages of rush hour. Suffice to say it wasn’t pleasant. A drive that took just over an hour in the late morning ended up taking well over twice as long. Ugh.

No travels on the weekend, just working at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Oddly enough my schedules both days were in 15-minute increments, 7:15 on Saturday and 7:45 on Sunday. It was the last major tree-selling rush prior to Christmas, and I spent most of each shift in the tree lot. At least I finally mastered the art of tying trees on top of vehicles and didn’t have to have other workers do it for me.  Once I finally saw how it was done I couldn’t imagine what had taken me so long!


Published in: on December 17, 2015 at 3:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 7 – Wednesday, December 9

Winding down

And so begins my last week at my main job prior to the three-week break at the end of the year. While these are three unpaid weeks I don’t mind too much, as the break is the standard practice with my employer and has been ever since I started in 2012. I will be working a decent number of hours at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, which will lessen (though not entirely eliminate) the financial loss. And most of all, I’ve been working so hard I really need the break.

During the last couple of years the final week before the break was very easy. These three days were definitely no exception. I really only had a couple of hours work each day, though I had to find various other tasks to occupy myself until I reached the five-hour mark and could leave while still getting a full day’s pay. Consider this a pre-break break.

On Tuesday evening I worked a 4-hour shift at the MHIR. I divided my time between the inside and the tree lot, and the four hours seemed to zip by in no time flat. On Wednesday evening I made a cautious return to the gym, and because I was still coughing quite a bit I decided to stick with machine work.  Nothing too taxing.



Published in: on December 13, 2015 at 4:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, December 4 – Sunday, December 6

My recovery continued on Friday, but I still wasn’t back to 100%. There was my good old reliable cough, and my energy levels were better but still somewhat diminished. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I wasn’t quite ready to make my long-delayed return to the gym. Sorry. For the most part I did very little all day.

It’s a good thing that my strength levels were mostly better on Saturday and Sunday because I worked an 8-hour shift each day at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. On Saturday I did 1:30 to 10, and it was just plain brutal. Until about 6:30 I spent most of my time in the Christmas aisle, which was a madhouse.  People were buying lights and decorations at a furious pace, and I was constantly down stocking items and searching for (usually sold out) products. You’d think that shopping for lights and decorations would put people in good moods, and maybe that often is the case, but trust me when I say that the items are sold out, the aforementioned mood sink like a stone.

What happened at 6:30 made me think that maybe the Christmas aisle wasn’t so bad after all. Due to a scheduling mixup on management’s part I found myself along in the garden department, and therefore had to take charge of the tree lot.  How many people buy Christmas trees on a Saturday evening?  Lots and lots of people! I had to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, often with several tree-toting people in line to have der tanenbaums wrapped and trimmed.  Thankfully the parking lot attendant was able to help me out, otherwise I have no idea what I would have done.  Given the customer flow there should have been at least three and ideally four people on duty. How I survived, I just don’t know.

Sunday was a bit more reasonable.  Garden was pretty well staffed, and I worked both inside and in the tree lot at various times.  At all times there was a sense of things being under control, and that was a huge contrast compared to the day before.  In the evening was the MHIR’s holiday party, held at the same catering joint as last year … complete with the same valet parking (tips expected), cash bar, and mediocre food. It wasn’t all bad, as the store manager actually apologized to me for Saturday evening’s scheduling slip-up. That was nice.


Published in: on December 9, 2015 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, November 30 – Thursday, December 3

Cough, cough, cough

I shouldn’t complain. That nasty cold that had laid me low over the weekend had largely vanished by Monday morning, though I was weaker and less energetic  than usual. It was no longer a burden just to move around. I should be thankful for that.

Why I may seem less than grateful is not (hopefully) a reflection on my character, but the result of the fact that my body reacted to the cold just like it has reacted to every cold or sore throat for as long as I can remember: with a loud, wracking, and often painful cough that if experience is any guide could last for weeks. And of course there’s very little I can do about it. By Thursday I had gone through three bottles of cough syrup and countless cough drops, with what I’d say was minimal effect. There are countless brands and versions of over-the-counter cough syrup, but all of them are largely useless. Prescription cough syrup is more effective, but I dislike the idea of taking codeine. If headaches were like coughs, aspirin would be useless and your only remedy would be oxycontin.

Despite barking away like an old hound dog, and with my voice reduced to a hoarse whisper, I tried to make the best of the week. Each day I made it to my main job, helped by the fact that I’m on a very easy work cycle, and tried to be reasonably active in the evenings. While I called out of my one Major Home Improvement Retailer shift scheduled during this period, a 4-hour shift on Monday, that was due mainly to exhaustion. Of course going to the gym still wasn’t feasible, but that shouldn’t matter.

Published in: on December 4, 2015 at 7:04 pm  Comments (1)